Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fuel Cell Vehicles

Fuel cell vehicles are being launched all over the world. In less than 10 years, they have reached the stage of operating prototypes and demonstration models. Nearly 20 companies are developing lightduty fuel cell vehicles and components. The first application addressed in this sector was buses, because they are operated in fleets, along defined routes over comparatively short distances requiring low endurance. This has now expanded into the automobile industry and nearly all of the world’s major vehicle manufacturers are involved, some heavily.

One of the central dilemmas facing Fuel Cell Vehicles commercialisation is whether to generate the hydrogen off-board and store it on the vehicle or store a hydrogen-rich compound onboard the vehicle. Both strategies are technically possible and neither strategy yields a clearly preferable result so far from the consumer’s perspective.

Companies involved in the production of Fuel Cell Vehicles are BMW, Daihatsu, Daimler-Chrysler (which believes that it leads the industry in fuel cell vehicle demonstration projects worldwide), Delphi, Fiat, Ford, General Motors, GM-PATAC, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Michelin, Mitsubishi, Nissan, PSA/Peugeot, Renault, Suzuki, Toyota, Volvo, Volkswagen AG.

Transit buses are widely viewed as one of the best strategies for commercialising fuel cells for vehicles and transitioning to a hydrogen economy. Many advantages have been identified regarding the use of transit buses as fuel cell platforms. Major institutions and programmes in this sector include the Georgetown University Fuel Cell Bus Programme, DaimlerChrysler EVOBAS, Electric Fuel Corporation, Irisbus, Gillig, Hino Motors, MAN, NABI (North American Bus Industries), Neoplan, New Flyer Industries, Nova Bus, Proton Motor Fuel Cell GmbH, Toyota, Thor Industries Inc, UTC, Van Hool, Volvo Bus.

The first fuel cell vehicles were specialty vehicles. Allis Chalmers built and demonstrated a tractor in 1959 utilising an alkaline fuel cell that produced 20 horsepower. During the 1960s, Pratt & Whitney delivered the first of an estimated 200 fuel cell auxiliary power units for space applications. Union Carbide delivered a fuel cell scooter to the US Army in 1967 and Engelhard developed a fuel-cell-powered forklift about 1969.


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